The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) faced significant backlash when they attempted to rebrand their nickname from ‘the BoM’ to ‘the bureau’ last week. Their decision to roll out this update amidst torrential rain and damaging flooding across Australia’s eastern seaboard resulted in the rebrand falling into poor favour and being mocked by the nation. The 18-month rebrand, conducted by C Word Communications Agency (whose ‘Chief Communicator’ Jack Walden was later hired as the Senior Manager of Communications at the BoM) and Era-Co, cost $220,000 and included a strategy, naming, logo and identity, as well as a communications rollout. When situated amidst a ‘toxic work culture’ where staff were being overworked - one staff member reportedly worked 16 hours per day for ten days in a row - and not paid overtime, it places the brand in a bad light.
Thousands of people across Victoria, NSW and Queensland have been affected by flooding, with many evacuating and losing their homes and belongings to the damage. The BoM weather provides vital information regarding weather forecasts and warnings. So it came as a surprise when on Tuesday, in the middle of a flooding crisis, media outlets received a media release to update their internal style guides and only refer to the BoM as ‘the Bureau’. They may have believed that right in the middle of the floods, when everyone was turning to them for critical information, was the best time to announce that they didn’t like the acronym ‘the BoM’ - however it only served to prove that their priorities as a meteorology service were misdirected.
Within the rollout of the brand update itself, there were several issues. After news of the rebrand sparked outrage across Twitter, the potential username handles - which had not been reserved - were quickly taken and the BoM weather had to consult Twitter to resolve the issue. Despite intending to change the name from ‘the BoM’ to ‘the Bureau’, their URL remains as www.bom.au, their app cover displays a large ‘BoM’ in bold yellow text and all of their social handles continue to include ‘BoM’. It’s not that a brand can’t change their name, but they do need to do their due diligence prior to any announcement or rollout. A name ingrained in Australian culture isn’t an easy or necessary feat, especially when the nickname seemingly comes from the brand’s own marketing - ie. each touchpoint using ‘BoM’.
There would have been a large strategic process prior to any decision to change the name, or nickname, of the bureau of meteorology. So how did they get it so wrong? There are a lot of comments about how a rebrand could cost that much or how they have just changed a name but these critiques are incorrect. In reality, a rebrand to a large government agency or company should cost this much. There is plenty of research and work that needs to be done prior to any actual tangible change being made. What may seem like a name change is actually a strategic and purposeful repositioning of a government agency that would have been several months in the making. Comments about the price do nothing but devalue the strategic and creative work that goes into a large change like this. The issue lies in the very obvious truth that the outcome of this change was not right. And why? Because they just got it wrong. It’s that easy. And the period in which it was released and the gaffs in the rollout just reaffirmed it.
Releasing a rebrand of the BoM weather bureau in the middle of a natural disaster after a continuous period of disasters is never going to hit. Announcing the changes prior to updating any touch points with the new branding or actually taking hold of any new social handles is priming yourself for some good old Australian humour to take place at your expense. Add to that an easily ridiculed release kindly asking people to refer to you by a different nickname because you don’t like the current one, and you get a disastrous rollout of a rebrand.
Taking out the name change, which has since been somewhat taken back, the individual elements and the update was a necessary change. Brands can’t stay the same for long periods of time - they need to evolve as changes of technology, media and styles take hold. A few minor differences and this rebrand wouldn’t have been received as poorly as it was. We’re just hoping there’s a new website in the works, because if anything needs updating…